New models - Suzuki - SX4 - sedan/2WD range
First drive: Suzuki SX4 range grows
Sedan version and a front-wheel drive increase appeal of Suzuki small car
31 Aug 2007
SUZUKI’S model rejuvenation continues with the expansion of its SX4 small-car range, launched in Adelaide this week.
Joining the AWD five-door hatchback released earlier this year is a front-wheel drive (FWD) hatch and an all-new FWD SX4 four-door sedan.
Available from $19,990 for the base FWD sedan and hatch, the SX4 range replaces the quirky “Life In A New Age” Liana, which was released in October 2001. No AWD SX4 sedan is in the pipeline for now.
The broader SX4 range represents Suzuki’s most competitive small-car assault ever in Australia, flanking both the cheaper end of the segment against rivals like the Hyundai Elantra and Nissan Tiida ST-L, as well as the more expensive and better-equipped versions of the Toyota Corolla, Holden Astra, Ford Focus and Honda Civic.
All models are made in Japan, and include ABS brakes (with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist), dual front airbags, air-conditioning, electronic power steering, power windows, remote central locking, remote audio controls, three rear lap-sash seatbelts, a trip computer and power mirrors.
The mid-range FWD SX4 S sedan and hatch add side curtain airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, alloy wheels, cruise control, remote keyless entry and start, climate-control air-conditioning, front foglights and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Topping the SX4 range is the continuing AWD hatch, which remains priced from $24,390.
All model variants use Suzuki’s long-lived J20A 2.0-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine. Aided by Suzuki’s “Intake Manifold Tuning” system – a computer-controlled dual-length intake tract system that helps plump around an extra 11kW of power availability across a wider rev range – the SX4 offers 107kW of power at 5800rpm and 184Nm of torque at 3500rpm.
The gearbox choices are a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission.
Both SX4 bodystyles are derived from a body and chassis that was originally developed for the current Swift light car. Suzuki claims it paid particular attention to the torsional strength of the steel unibody, as well as the suspension mounting points, for a more solid and rigid-feeling car.
Like the Swift, the SX4’s suspension is comprised of MacPherson struts at the front, mounted on a high-tensile steel subframe for reduced noise and vibration, and a torsion beam configuration at the rear.
The Swift platform was beefed up with large cross-section members that help it to better resist bending and twisting forces.
As with all post-Swift Suzuki passenger cars, all suspension components have been tuned to deliver both sharper handling and a more supple and comfortable ride. This reflects on the company’s greater focus on dynamic engineering.
According to Suzuki, evidence of this is in the SX4’s optimised anti-dive and anti-squat geometry, resulting in “European” levels of handling standards.
Both sedan and hatch feature ventilated front disc brakes. But while the FWD hatch – like its AWD sibling – has rear disc brakes, the sedan makes do with drum brakes on the rear.
Wheels are 15-inch steel units shod with 195/65 15 tyres on the base sedan (with 15-inch alloys on the S sedan), while the hatch gains a 205/60 16-inch wheel-and-tyre package, with only the base model using steel wheels.
Speaking about the new sedan, Suzuki’s chief program engineer for the SX4, Osamu Honda, aimed to create a vehicle that set a new benchmark in comfort, while delivering an appealing modern style with “solid handling and confident mobility”.
According to Suzuki, a Japanese Kabuki mask inspired the SX4 sedan’s styling. Forward of the B-pillar it appears identical to its hatch sister, and shares the same signature rising waistline, A-pillar-sited triangular shaped window design cues.
Suzuki claims the SX4 sedan’s height gives it a greater road presence. Mr Honda’s aim was “to create a stylish, upright environment to support the active lifestyles of Suzuki customers.” Like the outgoing Liana, the SX4 models are tall-riding vehicles – with the 1545mm-high sedan offering 175mm of ground clearance compared to the 1585mm-high FWD hatch’s 165mm and the 1630mm-high AWD hatch’s 200mm.
A higher-than-usual ‘H’ hip point results in easier entry and egress – a boon for mobility-impaired people – while a loftier driving position and associated enhanced all-round vision virtues.
Another benefit is stress reduction on the lower back when exiting, as the legs can be extended straight out.
The resulting taller cabin also brings space efficiency benefits, with more room for occupants and a huge (515-litre volume) boot in the sedan.
The dashboard is angled away from the occupants to accentuate the feeling of space created by the high roof design.
Special sound insulation sheeting, flush body surfaces and double-sealing weather strips help reduce wind-noise intrusion, while extensive use of vibration damping materials beneath the cabin and around the engine aim to slash mechanical noise paths.
There are plenty of storage areas, including a tray located underneath the front passenger’s seat.
On the safety front, Suzuki says it engineered high levels of passive safety in the form of energy-absorbent front and rear crush zones, side impact-minimising door beams and head restrains for all five occupants.
In Euro NCAP testing, the Suzuki SX4 scored four stars out of five.
Suzuki is hoping the FWD and sedan additions to the SX4 range will help it emulate the startling sales success of its Swift kid brother.
“We’re convinced it’s a world-beating vehicle and I’m confident our customers will think so too,” said Mr Honda.
Italian car-maker Fiat also sells a version of the SX4 – in AWD hatch-only guise – called the Sedici. It is highly unlikely that this vehicle will be sold in Australia.
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